Billy McKinney Rumors
Four decades’ worth of NBA memorabilia fill his office, telling the story of McKinney’s seven years as a journeyman point guard and 33 seasons as a front-office executive. These days, though, the 64-year-old has more important things to talk about. Two years ago, McKinney left the NBA behind. The man who once scouted an NAIA player named Scottie Pippen and who served as the first general manager in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves is now mayor of his small hometown. “There’s two things I said I’d never do in life,” McKinney says. “I’d never get into politics, and I’d never move back to Zion. And look where I am.”
The following year, at 32, McKinney landed his first general manager job with the expansion Timberwolves, and in 1992 he accepted the unenviable task of breaking up the aging “Bad Boys” in Detroit. McKinney traded John Salley and Dennis Rodman but also drafted Lindsey Hunter and Allan Houston. He wept tears of joy when he landed future Hall of Famer Grant Hill with the third pick of the 1994 draft. When the franchise predictably struggled during its rebuild, McKinney took the hits — sometimes literally. During a practice in 1993, guard Alvin Robertson choked McKinney after being fined and suspended for skipping games, practices and rehab sessions.
By 1995, McKinney had resigned from the Pistons, and although he remained in the league in various front-office positions over the next two decades, he never worked again as a general manager. “I was so disappointed by my experience in Detroit,” McKinney says. “While it strengthened me and made me understand what I could tolerate, it also took a big piece out of me.”
McKinney has had a few wins, too. When he ran for mayor, he promised to save Christmas. The city’s beloved Santa’s House — a small structure where families would take their kids to see Saint Nick — had been gone for more than a decade, and several residents asked him about it on the campaign trail. In November, McKinney escorted Mr. and Mrs. Claus back to their cottage. “Just kind of small things you try to do in a town to keep it the feel of a small city,” McKinney says. More than symbolic gestures, McKinney directed some of the city’s funds to repave the street behind the Hebron townhouses — “It looked like actually a war zone back in the alley,” he recalls. McKinney says he received handwritten thank you notes.
Zanik was shown the door as the Milwaukee Bucks assistant general manager last week, shortly after he had been one of the three finalists for the general manager’s position vacated by John Hammond’s departure to Orlando. Now, NBA sources said Monday night that the Bucks have jettisoned several more officials, including Billy McKinney, the team’s longtime director of scouting, and Chris Gilmartin, the team’s director of pro scouting. McKinney, who is well respected in the league, came to the Bucks from Detroit nine years ago from Detroit with Hammond. Prior to that, McKinney also worked in the front office for Chicago and Minnesota.
Zanik, McKinney and Gilmartin weren’t the only ones fired by the Bucks in recent weeks. Two members of the Bucks public relations department – Mark Rosenberg, the director of communications, and Erika Johnson, public relations coordinator, have been dismissed.